Letter to readers: American Press going to five days a week

Published 8:47 am Thursday, December 1, 2022

By Dan Phelan, American Press publisher

Since the founding of the American Press 127 years ago, our organization has printed 47,940 issues. The rough math is that we have printed and distributed more than 1.43 billion newspapers in that timeframe.

Also, for the majority of our history we were the only news source in Southwest Louisiana.

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To this day, we continue to produce stories that inform you of the events, people and changes taking place in and around our community. As other media sources were developed, we remained true to our core mission — printing and delivering the best newspaper we could that contained the highest quality of journalism.

Until recently, our business model had not materially changed. For perspective, think of any business that has existed for 25, 50 or 100 years that has not made significant changes.

Our recent changes were to embrace digital and all of the options that online communication enabled us to use. For example, we produce an online replica of the newspaper daily. We now use social media extensively and last year we added a daily digital newsletter reaching an audience that has already more than quadrupled.

We now reach far more people with our various distribution platforms than we have ever reached before.

But, like any business, we need to continue to evolve and not wait for changes to be forced upon us. We have to proactively embrace change and the sometimes-difficult decisions that are necessary.

Beginning on Dec. 4, we will be changing our newspaper frequency to five days a week, no longer producing the Sunday and Monday editions. Instead, our Saturday newspapers will become weekend editions, larger than our current page count and now containing our four-page color comics collection. This four-section weekend edition will be filled with local, state, national and world news, Sunday Talk, Letters to the Editor, columns by Jim Beam and Scooter Hobbs, sports, outdoors, life, classifieds, obituaries and Names in the News.

One of the key reasons for eliminating the Sunday edition is because the U.S. Postal Service cannot deliver on Sunday and a larger percentage of our subscribers will receive their newspaper in the mail. We already distribute through the mail in some outlying communities and we will be increasing that portion of our delivery system.

Effective Dec. 6, Lake Charles subscribers within the city limits will continue to receive the American Press from their carrier while all subscribers outside of Lake Charles city limits will receive their newspaper in the mail. There are two reasons for this. The first is the difficulty in finding and retaining carriers, especially in the areas outside of Lake Charles. Although we do have some long-term carriers delivering outside of Lake Charles, trying to manage a delivery system with some routes being delivered with carriers and others through the mail is very difficult.

The vast majority of our subscribers will continue to receive the American Press though the existing carrier delivery system.

As you can imagine, producing and distributing a newspaper is not inexpensive. In the past year, our cost for paper, ink, printing plates, utilities, production personnel, gas, insurance, etc., increased by almost 18 percent. Although the percentages of increases change yearly, each year our expenses go up, never down.

To accomplish what we need to do, continuing to evolve as a news media organization while simultaneously controlling expenses, we must modify our business model. As a news media organization, we will be developing new initiatives we believe will enable us to connect with our readers in more engaging and inclusive ways. For example, we will develop podcasts that will help us relay information or discuss topics that are noteworthy yet not as time sensitive as most of the stories we write about. We will have more ongoing community and business initiatives like the recently concluded People’s Choice promotion and accompanying event that generated more than 247,000 votes from the residents of Southwest Louisiana.

I want to thank you for your continued business. As you know, our community has been through a lot of challenges and trials through the past few years. Hopefully, we have done a good job of keeping you informed and have continued to earn your trust.

The American Press has a dedicated readership and a deep impact on our region. In this era of never-ending coverage and pontification, the American Press still has the ability to cut through the noise. That’s no small feat and includes dogged shoe-leather reporting, tracking down sources, digging up public records, analyzing data, interviewing experts and telling all the sides of the story.

That will never change.

The American Press is needed more than ever to provide crucial information Southwest Louisiana residents need to navigate the travails of daily life. We will continue to tell the stories of the community we serve and we appreciate your support as we navigate this new era.